HOOPESTON – When Debbie Klaber thinks of Colby Haskins, she can't help but picture the 12-year-old's "big beautiful smile."
"Whenever he walked into a room, that's what he had on his face: a big smile. It just lit up the room," said Klaber, Colby's sixth-grade teacher at John Greer Elementary School.
Klaber said Monday was a difficult day for students and staff at the Hoopeston school, who were dealing with the news of Colby's death, which came about three weeks after he was involved in a car-bike collision.
Colby died at 11:17 p.m. Sunday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said.
The accident occurred at 3:41 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the intersection of Seminary Avenue and Seventh Street, Hoopeston police Chief Mark Drollinger said. Drollinger said Colby rode his bike into the intersection, made a U-turn and was struck by a car headed north on Seventh Street.
"According to witnesses, it looks like he went into the intersection without yielding," Drollinger said, adding the car's driver, an 87-year-old Hoopeston woman, was not ticketed.
Drollinger said emergency medical personnel rushed Colby to Hoopeston Community Memorial Hospital. He later was airlifted to the Urbana hospital.
Two social workers, a school psychologist and three members of the local ministerial association were on hand on Monday morning to offer grief counseling to students, Principal Dan Walder said. He said about five students took advantage of the counseling.
"A lot of the kids coming in didn't know," Walder said. He said most of Colby's close friends, who did know, did not come to school, and a few students went home upon learning of Colby's death.
Klaber described Colby as a good student and well-liked by his peers. He liked to play summer league baseball and midget football.
Klaber took a moment on Monday to look at an assignment the students had done recently to prepare for an upcoming visit to a local assisted-living center. When asked what people like best about him, Colby wrote, "I make them laugh."
"That was pretty much Colby," Klaber said.
After the accident, Klaber said the entire school rallied behind Colby and his family. Students made him get-well cards and sixth-graders created a gigantic banner to cheer him up in the hospital.
Klaber, who attends church with Colby's family, said Colby had been improving steadily, according to his grandparents. While he had remained in intensive care, he had been moved to pediatrics this past weekend, and had even been taken outside to get some sun on Sunday.
"We were anticipating that he'd be released soon," said Klaber, who was crushed to learn of Colby's death.
She said her students spent the day writing about their feelings in their journals and making sympathy cards for Colby's parents.
"We just kind of spent the day having a family time," she said. "We talked about how everyone's going to have different emotions, and it's going to hit them at different times ... and that we're going to have people available, if they need help."